Theory: Contests

First, I wanted to follow up on last time’s post regarding Twitter by noting Eric Lang’s “TCG Design 101” tweets. Each one is a superb distillation of years of design experience. They’re the kind of content that makes Twitter so valuable to designers, and are well worth checking out.

Unfortunately, sometimes one isn’t inspired to create the next great TCG—or much of anything else, for that matter. When that happens to me, I often check out game design contests. They’re very useful for breaking through mental blocks, getting out of comfort zones, and generally putting the creative engine into gear.

Contests provide two invaluable things to designers searching for inspiration: a seed (e.g., “a game involving kings and queens” or “dexterity game”) and a deadline. The value of the former is plain. In game design as in writing, one of the most challenging parts is facing a blank page and having to narrow down the universe of ideas. Having a requirement to work from makes things a lot easier.

Imposing a deadline, too, ought not be underestimated. There’s nothing better for forcing movement, for getting past speculation and starting to design. When you’re in a rut an impetus to do something now can actually be very helpful.

There’s a range of contests out there, formal and informal, some with long histories. I’d encourage anyone looking to get past a roadblock, or improve their skills, or get some feedback, or just to try their hand at the art of design to give one a try.

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